Foodier than the average bear
June 2, 2008 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Camping for dummies foodies?

We're going camping for a few nights in Tahoe. The gf and I are both foodies. I'd like to come up with some fun, more-interesting-than-average campfire food that we can make/mix ahead of time, pack in bags or jars, then cook with minimal fuss. In other words, we'd rather not eat canned beans, hot dogs, or other pre-packaged stuff. She eats anything, so all recommendations are welcome. (Looking for ideas along the lines of: Make yummy pasta sauce -- maybe puttanesca -- pack it in the cooler. Boil dried pasta for dinner.)

Equipment available: Large ice chest. One or two pots, plus one or two pans. Might take the dutch oven. We'll have a fire pit, plus a two-burner propane stove.

Yes, I've read this thread. It's helpful, but not quite what I'm looking for.
posted by mudpuppie to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
An ice chest is an ideal place to leave meats marinating - that's one approach I would consider.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:32 PM on June 2, 2008

Book recommendation: Campfire Cuisine: Gourmet Recipes for the Great Outdoors.

I've referenced it many, many times -- even when I'm not camping! We love the pancake recipe.
posted by nitsuj at 2:32 PM on June 2, 2008

My Girl Guide leader (Girl Scout to you) used to make us prepare a stew/casserole/curry/etc and freeze it ahead of time. On the day of camp, we'd take it out of the freezer and it would have defrosted by the evening, perfect for heating up and eating with crusty bread/rice/what have you.

There were a few useful suggestions in this thread, including mine. So I'm not going to repeat myself.

Also, being a Brit, I cannot praise enough a full English Breakfast cooked on camp.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:37 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

You've got lots of options. Car camping you can cook anything you can make at home. Last weekend I cooked hamachi kama on a camp fire, we served it with a carrot and hijiki salad and cold udon noodles. Merguez, jerk chicken, and hamburgers (grind your own) are my default camping meals.
posted by foodgeek at 2:45 PM on June 2, 2008

Breakfast Couscous is really good and easy, easy easy. You can mix everything up ahead of time (including powdered milk, if you like).

For 2 large or 3 normal servings:

1 cup skim milk
¼ cup water
½ cup uncooked couscous
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 ½ tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

Bring milk and water mixture to a simmer in a saucepan and then stir in the dry ingredients. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 10 minutes until thickened.
posted by idest at 2:48 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Are you going car-camping, or backpacking? If the former, definitely take the dutch oven.

Things that I've eaten on the trail, all from scratch: birthday cake (I have a crazy friend who thinks nothing of carrying a dutch oven on his back for a week); beef stroganoff; broiled fresh-caught trout; Indian rice, naan (toasted on the campfire) and veg.; and burritos/fajitas. Remember that fresh fruit, veg, and eggs will keep for a few days without refrigeration, as will beef. (But you have a cooler.) And a nice soup really puts the shine on a meal.

Just stay away from all the dehydrated crap. Think about the things that you like to cook at home and see how much of it you can adapt and simplify.
posted by phliar at 2:49 PM on June 2, 2008

We tend to make up meals in foil packets with a meat (fish/chicken/etc) some aromatics and seasoning all wrapped up, stick them in the fire or coals when you're ready, they steam and cook up fantastically in about 30-40 minutes. Options are limitless, mess is minimal.
posted by iamabot at 3:14 PM on June 2, 2008

You can make sandwich bag omelets. Cut up your favorite omelet toppings (cheese, ham, etc) and put in a baggie. Crack open an egg or two into the baggie and boil.
posted by NoraCharles at 3:15 PM on June 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

I know you said no pre-packaged food, but one of the things my friend Mark makes in his beloved dutch oven when we go camping is called Dump Cake. Basically just dump in cake mix with a can of 7-up and maybe a can of cherries. Mix a couple of times, but that's it. Top the lid with some coals and voila! I think he gives it 30 mins to cook or so - super moist cake for dessert. It ain't pretty, but it sure beats smores.

I also recommend cut up chicken mixed with a few generous dollops of olive oil and jerk seasonings in a plastic baggie. Massage plastic baggie well to spread the seasonings and freeze so that when you're camping, it's ready to go. It's very simple and really tasty on the grill. Serve with cous cous, wild rice, salad, potatoes, you name it.

It's amazing that when you're camping, simple foods like this taste like you're eating out at a four star restaurant.
posted by HeyAllie at 3:36 PM on June 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

It's amazing that when you're camping, simple foods like this taste like you're eating out at a four star restaurant.

Ding that! And anything cooked over an open flame is so delicious, especially after a good hike.

Stick to the basics -- potatoes, meat, vegetables -- with good spices and butter and you'll be loving it.
posted by amanda at 3:47 PM on June 2, 2008

Cut the top third off a red onion, put a generous pat of butter on it, and wrap the whole thing tightly in foil. Set it upright in the coals while you prepare dinner and forget about it for the next 4 hours or so. Eat the resulting carmelized onion as a late night snack with bread.
posted by contraption at 3:51 PM on June 2, 2008 [5 favorites]

What about sate? You could prepare your marinade at home, then all you have to do is marinate for a couple of hours, skewer, and cook. Can be successfully done on even the lamest campfire! : ) And each person can cook their own for fun.
posted by HotToddy at 3:56 PM on June 2, 2008

You cannot go camping without chili. It's a one-pot wonder, perfect for camping. If you don't want to make it in the woods, just make it ahead of time and heat it, and it will even get better with more time that way. Heck, you could even make some cornbread over the fire with a cast-iron skillet if you're car-camping.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:25 PM on June 2, 2008

While camping last weekend I came up with, on the spur of the moment:

salmon filet + lemon juice + dill + basil-infused olive oil

Lay filet on tin foil. Top with dill. Douse with lemon juice and olive oil. Wrap up in foil. Cook over fire for a few minutes.

It was delicious.
posted by autojack at 4:32 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you're considering the dutch oven, I expect that weight is not a concern. In that case, the real constraint is not that you're cooking outdoors, but that you're looking for interesting meals that can be pre-prepared. A campfire and a dutch oven and a cooler (the stove is icing) will allow you to prepare virtually anything over three days.

As foodie meals go, some sort of confit would be hard to match. Since it was invented to preserve meat for days without refridgeration, it seems ideal for a fancy car-ish camping meal.

If you're going to cook any sort of meat, I suggest you brine it first. Especially on the fire, you're going to be dealing with fairly unpredictable heat, and a brine will help maintain moisture and make the meat a lot more forgiving. You can stick a couple chicken thighs in ziplock bags, add a brine w/ sugar and herbs, and then store it in the cooler until you're ready.

Starchy vegetables are pretty easy to cook on a fire, as you can toss them into a foil satchel with salt, oil, pepper, and herbs, and lay that inside some cooler coals for a while. If you're cooking on the fire, remember to let the coals burn down (i.e. start the fire early) else you'll be cooking on really bad heat.

While a lot of people swear by cooking cakes in a dutch oven, I've tried it a few dozen times and never had satisfactory results. If you're looking to bake something, you're safer off trying a cobbler or something else that will turn out regardless of temperature provided you cook it long enough. You can mix the wet fruit base and topping ahead of time, and then its just a matter of combining them and baking.

However you do this, consider using aluminum foil as much as possible. Just as having less preparation is easier, having fewer dirty dishes to clean will make this a lot more fun for you.

As others have said, this food will taste orders of magnitude better just by virtue of being outdoors. Hope you have fun!
posted by jacobbarssbailey at 4:35 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Damper. It's Australian bread, made in the campfire's ashes. Not fancy, but unusual preparation.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:53 PM on June 2, 2008

If you can take an eggplant, some tahini, some garlic, and basic utensils, you could probably make really good baba ganoush.
posted by dilettante at 5:05 PM on June 2, 2008

Hot chocolate with whiskey.
posted by collocation at 5:12 PM on June 2, 2008

I think to some degree you should give some consideration to taking advantage of the cooking opportunity which is for most people pretty unique to camping, which is the open wood/charcoal flame. Scrounge up some sort of grille for the fire pit if it isn't so equipped and you can, for example, prepare some marinated/seasoned meats and/or vegetables for grilling over the campfire.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:24 PM on June 2, 2008

I've had really good luck with kebabs made up ahead of time on wooden skewers. You can put them in a nice marinade in a large ziplock, then just put them on the fire/ grill/ whatever.

And to make one of my favorite camping foods, core out a head of cabbage, then fill the hole with as much garlic and butter as it will hold. rap the whole thing in foil and put it in the coals until the cabbage softens up. You might roll it around every now and again. It's frickin' fabulous.
posted by Shohn at 5:34 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

A favorite camping breakfast of mine: (involves prepackaged sausage, but you could do whatever)

-Little Smokies sausages, maple flavor (or whatever breakfast sausage you like)
-Green and red peppers (or orange or yellow -- the sweeter the better I think here)
-English muffins
-Butter or olive oil for toasting muffins, olive oil for brushing on peppers.

We've generally cooked the whole shebang over the fire (hot coals), by skewering the little smokies with bamboo skewers (Just skewer half the package at a time by running the 2 skewers through the sausages starting at one end of the package, you can spread them out on the skewers). Cut the peppers into ~4 pieces each and toss with olive oil in a baggie or bowl. Depending on your cooking arrangement, skewer the peppers for easy turning or just set them directly on the grate and turn with tongs. Just before everything is done, butter the English muffins and grill until toasty. Put everything on the muffin. Best breakfast sandwich ever!

Also: it is relatively easy to cook whatever over a camp stove, especially if you are car camping and have the ingredients readily available in the cooler. Favorites include steaks on the fire + texas toast, spaghetti or whatever pasta (and texas toast!), pancakes in the morning (w/ TOAST). Hey did I mention I like toast?
posted by sararah at 5:51 PM on June 2, 2008

I like to stuff pitas with olives, diced red peppers, seasoned, pre-cooked rice from TJ's, feta, spinach, and onions, wrapped in a few layers of foil and tossed into the coals. Greeky melts. Yum!

Parathas are _great_ over a campfire.

contraption introduced me to banana boats: a slit banana stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate, wrapped in foil and cooked amongst the coals. For a foodier twist, perhaps ditch the marshmallows, class up on your chocolate selection and spread the resulting deliciousness on a scone or some ice cream!! Ice cream made while camping is daaaaamn good, no?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:40 PM on June 2, 2008

In reference to ice cream made while camping, I've always wanted to buy one of these ice cream balls for camping, they look like fun.
posted by sararah at 6:57 PM on June 2, 2008

Last time we camped, we did a fabulous greek meal the first night (we'll tend to do our marinated meat meals early in the trip to not risk leaving raw meat sitting too long, even if in a cooler). A faux-Tandoori chicken recipe from cooking light (marinated in advance and brought in ziploc bags), pita to toss on the grill, a greek salad, which keeps relatively well for leftovers the next day. Oh, and greek yogurt with honey and walnuts for a fabulous dessert or breakfast.
posted by purenitrous at 7:05 PM on June 2, 2008

I've had great success with camping recipes from See here and here and here. This one is a perfect example:

Boozy Campfire Cheese

1 (7- to 8-ounce) wheel soft-ripened, bloomy-rind cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
1 tablespoon pear eau de vie or brandy
1 loaf crusty bread, such as pain au levain, baguette, or sourdough

Unwrap cheese and set in the center of a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, about 12 by 12 inches. Perforate cheese by pricking it a few times with a fork, then sprinkle liquor over the holes.

Close the foil by wrapping the sides up around the cheese and sealing it at the top. Place wheel in the embers of the campfire, at the edge of the fire where the logs are smoldering and covered with a layer of gray ash (not in a direct flame). Cook, turning wheel occasionally with the tongs so all sides spend some time near the embers, until cheese is soft and melted, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove from the fire and place on a plate. Open foil packet, and scoop out cheese with hunks of crusty bread.
posted by Cobalt at 7:44 PM on June 2, 2008 [4 favorites]

Please bring you dutch over, if its a cast iron like the one I used to take camping it can make some amazing food. For instance some of the best things ever to come out of mine were lasagna (not to difficult), Roasted chicken (don't let the bird touch the edges, use an upside down pie pan), and chili. None of these are difficult and you pretty much jazz them up any way you like. The way I learned to make a dutch oven work is light charcoal in a chimney and then the dutch oven will have a number on top. That number is the diameter in inches if I remember correctly. Put 2 more than that number of coals on top and 2 less than that number on bottom. It will cook just like a sealed oven and taste very delicious. (I was told that made it 350˚F).
posted by DJWeezy at 10:12 PM on June 2, 2008

Green pepper
On two large pieces of aluminum foil, layer two slices (or more) of bacon on each sheet of foil. Patty the hambuger and place on top of bacon. Layer sliced onion, green pepper, muchrooms, sliced potatoes. Marinate with sauce of choice (whorshesire, soy, teriyaki, red wine vinegrette dressing, salt, pepper, garlic salt, your favorite flavorings). Wrap up in foil. Place on top of grill or in campfire and let cook for 1 to 1 1/ hour. Let rest for 15 minutes. Eat the hell out of it. Good stuff.
posted by wv kay in ga at 11:41 PM on June 2, 2008

A favorite camping dessert of mine:

- Take a banana, peel it, and then slice it lengthwise, about halfway into the banana.
- Stuff with dark chocolate chips and unsweetened coconut shreds (take care not to overstuff)
- Wrap tightly in foil, and put in the flames of the fire for 5-10 minutes (cooking over the flames just never seems to cook the banana or melt the chocolate).
- Once the banana is somewhat mushy to the touch, it should be done
- Open up the foil, grab a spoon and enjoy a chocolate-y, coconut delight!
posted by anthropoid at 7:12 AM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the ideas!
posted by mudpuppie at 12:12 PM on June 3, 2008

I just got this one in my email today:Fire grilled green beans with dippling sauce. Can't vouch for it, but looks yummy (and Chowhound is a great site).
posted by purenitrous at 7:39 AM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I spent my child hood camping with my dad. I recall that he'd pre-make dinners in foil packets and store them in the cooler. When we were ready for dinner, he'd just throw them on the fire until they were done. The packets always had a piece of meat, some veggies, potato maybe, herbs and random spices. Always delicious.

Here's a link to some recipes that I can't vouch for, but you get the idea:

If you plan to do any fishing, I highly recommend freshly caught trout with scrambled eggs for breakfast.
posted by trixare4kids at 4:11 PM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

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